Posted by : Bettina | January 14, 2016
There are only four foods that I really hate and they are blue cheese, sauerkraut, olives and coffee. Now, the first three are pretty easy for me to avoid ever eating but coffee is a different matter. Coffee is the all-American drink, served anywhere and anytime. Not only is it a drink but it also shows up in candy, cake, ice cream, and main dishes; and I can’t stand even the tiniest sip or smallest morsel. I can always taste when something has coffee in it, too! (Interestingly, though, I love the smell of it, especially freshly ground.) So what do I have to say about this topic that Claudia has picked for us to write about? Nothing,really, but I can talk about tea, for I love tea with the same passion as the most avid coffee drinker. I crave that first cup in the morning to wake up my day and I look forward to those last relaxing sips in the evening as much as coffee drinkers the world over do their cups of java.
I have loved tea ever since it was first served to me at eleven years of age by a kindly British bobby after I became separated from my mother late at night in the London Tube, or subway as we Americans call it. We had been to see a play in the theatre district of Piccadilly Circus and were about to enter a subway car when a large crowd of theatre goers pushed their way between us. When the doors closed I was left standing alone on the platform while the train carrying my mother was hurling off into the darkness. Far too shy to ask anyone for help and not following the sage advice of staying put until you are found, I took matters into my own hands and somehow ended up in a neighborhood many miles and several stops away from downtown London. The bobby, trying to cheer me up while he located my frantic mother, did what any proper Brit would do and offered a me a steaming mug of English tea. That moment is forever etched in my memory––sitting stiffly in that stuffy cramped police station, hearing the lilt of English accents murmuring in the background, clutching in my hands the very wrumpled linen handkerchief handed to me by the elderly gentlemen who brought me to the police, staring at the clock on the wall as its hands moved further and further into the wee hours of the morning, trying valiantly to hold back the tears hovering behind my eyelashes, and sipping the very good cup of tea ladened heavily with milk and sugar. Even in my very distressed state I was mindful of how good it tasted and I felt comforted and safe.
When I think about that moment, I realize that a hot drink itself, whether it be coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or cambric tea––the hot water, milk, and sugar concoction my mother made for me when I was small, is not what is most important. It’s not about what people prefer, not about whether it comes out of a jar or from a tea bag or is made by a fancy french press; not about being served in fine china or in a paper cup; nor is it about being purchased in a trendy coffee shop or at the local deli or made at home. It is all about what the drink offers. It beings alertness to start a morning, restoration to an exhausting day, comfort when the world seems against you, warmth after being chilled to the bone from an afternoon traversing the slopes, or renewed energy and focus when working on a demanding project. But most importantly, a hot drink offers connection.
Coffee, or tea, is not a solitary experience. It is a social event, bringing people together as few other things can. How many countless times have you met with someone over a cup of coffee? A first date with a special someone? A brainstorming session with coworkers? A morning spent catching up with an old friend? How many times have you said to someone, “Let’s get together for coffee.”, or had someone say to you,”Let me put the kettle on and make you some tea”? Coffee, especially, is not a drink at all. It is a conversation, a community, a culture, and a connection.
I think of all the cups of tea that I have consumed between that long ago one in London and the one that sits before me now as I write. I think of all the significant times I have had with people over those cups. Rib-aching laughter with college roommates. Lingering tête-à-têtes with my soon to be husband. Hot chocolate trysts with rosy cheeked tykes. Late night chats with my home from college daughter. Lively exchanges with my debate loving son.Talkfests with favorite friends. Encouragement when I have been down. Counsel when I have been confused. Conflicts settled. Hopes and heartaches shared. Prayers expressed. They all happened over a cup.
Despite all our modern technology that connects us with people anywhere in the world, we are still a very lonely species. Loneliness has become an epidemic, especially in America where we lead increasingly independent and isolated lives. In our fast paced, information-crazed, smart phone-controlled society, we overlook the value of face to face time. Getting together for coffee counters that trend. It forces us to take the time to focus on the person sitting across the table from us, to listen carefully to their words, to watch the emotions baring themselves on their faces, to shake a hand or to offer a hug. A sweet friend of mine recently gave me a mug she had made herself and engraved on the bottom are the words slow down. A hot cup of something forces us to do that very thing-to slow down, to pause in our day and to take note of that around us, and, most importantly, the people with us. When we say to someone,”Let’s get together for coffee.” we are really saying,”You are important enough to me to spend time with. I value your thoughts. I value your words. I value you.”
I rarely make New Year’s resolutions anymore. They seem to only set me up for failure and they focus more on what is wrong with me rather than what is right. I prefer to think about what I want my life to count for in the year ahead and what I want to put my time and my energy into. For me it is all about people. Deepening my relationships and spending more time with friends and family. Looking for opportunities where I can make a difference, even a small one, in another person’s life. Is there someone I know who needs encouragement? Someone with a need I can meet? Someone I can show hospitality? Who are the people in my life I can connect with across a table, cups of coffee or tea between us?
Proverbs 12:25 tells us that anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down but a good word picks it up. Who can you give a good word to in the months ahead? Who in your life needs reassurance or comfort? Who is new in your neighborhood or church or workplace? Who needs a supportive friend? Who can you offer a hot drink and a kind word to? Start with a sip of coffee and a conversation and see where it takes you!
And if you are ever in my neck of the woods, please stop by. I’ll put the kettle on and we’ll have a good chat. And, yes, I will serve you coffee as long as you promise not to stir it with my teaspoon!
What significant conversations have you had over a cup or coffee or tea?
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